Super-models, Used Cars and TV-Shows – or: The Relativity of ‘Beauty’

image of line of models on catwalk walking away
Super-models are and have been hotly discussed as a concept for decades, at least.
Why? First and foremost, because, they sell:
They sell an idea, glamour, the unattainable, a dream…and the latest fashion. Last but not least, the idea of sublime love…

They seem to be the living image of all those childhood fairy tales, the princess of the piece; again the almost unattainable, the ‘lady in distress’ to be saved.
The prize a man would win and thus suddenly be shot to the top of society from wherever he came, originally.
The woman apparently being a ‘princess’ or ‘queen’ in her own right:
Adored, looked-up to – and earning money by the bucketload…

But the downside of this is also very true and thus this post: Too many people take these images still too seriously and especially young ladies and girls tend to try and follow that example – far too often and far too much.

We should remember this, as a well-known TV-personality put it one day, (translated from German):

He spends lots of times behind the scenes in the makeup artists’ domain and what they do to the models’ faces there would get any used-car dealer into prison…

Since the advent of digital image editing this is even more pronounced, try using a search engine online for terms such as ‘digital makeup’ or ‘digital face lifting’: Just one such search comes up with 5.3 million results.

In our modern digital age the spread of such images is fast and almost global: Far too many people every day doubt themselves and their looks and suspect they might not look fashionable, that is ‘beautiful’, enough.

A big mistake. Because, what happens to people who choose a partner simply for looks is a complete disillusionment as soon as the person becomes known to them in real life.

It is part of that fairy-tale ending we so often presume when not aware (yet) of the image as opposed to reality. I’ve posted about that too, elsewhere.

Love starts with ourselves. Not with ‘eternal, perfect’ beauty. But with the friendship we can develop inside for ourselves, a liking, the ‘love your neighbour as you love thyself‘ concept.

I implore anyone who is in doubt about their features:
Think again! Watch, learn, I am sure you will find I am right: ‘Winning’ someone’s love starts with liking / accepting ourselves for what we are.

In recent years some campaigns have been launched for ‘real beauty realization’.
But the reverse is there still: TV-Shows about model challenges and searches where young women and increasingly men are cruelly put down in front of audiences for ‘not fitting the bill’.

Erich Kästner, German, award-winning poet and writer of the 20th century, put it in a fine poem like this
(used DeepL for English translation in this case, edited manually, for speed):

The dream of face-swapping

When I dreamt what I am about to tell you,
thousands were rushing through that house.
And as if some one commanded it
and their own faces tormenting everyone,
they all took off their faces.

Like taking pictures off the walls for moving
we took our faces away.
And then we held them in our hands,
as masks are held at the end of festivities.
But it was not festive, the place.

Without mouth or eyes, bare as shadows,
each one reached for the other’s hand,
until they had faces again.
Quickly and silently the exchange was made.
Each took what he found in the other’s hand.

Men suddenly wore children’s features.
Women wore beards on their faces.
Old men smiled like concubines.
And then they all rushed, me along with them,
towards the mirror but I couldn’t see myself.

The crowd grew wilder and wilder.
One of them had discovered his face!
Shouting, he forced his way through the crowd.
And he cornered his face.
But he did not find it. It remained hidden.

Was I that child with long braids?
Was I that woman with red hair?
Was I one of the bald heads?
Among the mixed-up creatures
I saw none that was myself.

Then I woke up in shock. I felt cold.
Someone was pulling my hair.
Fingers tugged at my mouth and ear.
I realised, as the fear faded,
that the hands were my own.

Of course, I was not completely reassured.
Was I wearing features that did not concern me?
I jumped up hastily and turned on the light,
I ran to the mirror, looked at my face,
put out the light and went to sleep, reassured.

 

‘Suffering from a Lack of Emotion’ ? – ‘*Feeling* Alive’

image with a stone heart, blue flowers and a light
“What to take when you suffer from a lack of emotion.”

Erich Kästner, German poet and award-winning writer of the 20th century, published a small book of poems he called:
‘Dr. Erich Kästner’s lyrical medicine chest’ / Dr. Erich Kästners lyrische Hausapotheke.

He ordered the poems by ‘ailment’ in the sense of what to ‘take’ in which kind of life’s – sometimes hard – situations.

I love this book. Among others.

One category in there he called:
“What to take when you suffer from a lack of emotion.”

He was not the first to state the importance of emotions and feeling in human life. Another fine and well-crafted example is the poetic fairy tale Wilhelm Hauff wrote in the 19th century, “Das kalte Herz” / Heart of Stone.

Why do they write about it?

Why would Kästner call it a ‘suffering’, consider it something treatable?

Because in the Western world at least for generations business considerations made it necessary to appear ‘cool, calm and collected’ any time. I mentioned this elsewhere. Additionally, two world wars called for heroism and ‘toughness’ before, during and after.

Building destroyed cities from the ground up again, in many cases made it appear to be even more essential, to be ‘tough’, not be moved to tears by sadness – or similar kinds of emotions.

It seems that many consider it a ‘weakness’ to this day.
Men are even more challenged that way still: A man is to be always superior, know his way about, and will save women, children and the elderly first, risking his life, if needs be.

The Heart of Stone

The result of such ideas is the opposite of an emotional mindset: Stony, dry and unmoved people ‘move’ through life and wonder only now and again what might be missing.

For men, almost the only two spheres in life they are allowed to be moved by, still, are sports and passion.

Of course this is also culturally dependent. Some cultures ‘grant’ emotions to men, and in general in certain situations, that others do not.

In effect it means that such people feel ‘dead to the world’. Walking, talking, attending to business, yet nothing seems to interest them.

Emotions ‘at the Heart’

In modern medicine even, it’s become clear – after certain brain surgery cases – that without actual emotions at all, we are unable to decide on anything.

Emotions are crucial, underestimated, and actually there, even if we are not aware of that ourselves.

Sigmund Freud did the research and cleared up a lot of unknowns around the whole matter.

How to go about it if you hadn’t realized it already?

The first thing is awareness. That is what I try to do around here… for the general public, as it were, hoping to light a candle perhaps.
Or have one or the other of my readers realize that there is ‘more to it than meets the eye’.

Try, if you will, for starters, the book and the tale I mentioned:

All emotions are essential to human life. Dealing with them is what it needs.

Awareness can help a great deal – in business just as much as in private life.

The Princess, the Hero, the Dragon – Romance? – or: Romantic Love as a Life-long Project

drawing of book with 3D image of castle inside
Fairy stories have them all: The ‘romantic’ types of love that come with a sudden realization, or a ‘meet cute’ as they call it in Hollywood or on TV, or the hero slaying the dragon to save the ‘lady in distress’.

They are sweet, sometimes the rendering in stories is wonderfully done.
Yet, they end with the smile of two, or more, protagonists: Curtain.

Real life begins after that.

The idea of romance can have at least two types, it seems to me:
One is the image made up of ideas that recur at least since the middle-ages, including a couple of different archetypes as C.G. Jung identified them. It causes people to ‘run around’ with stars in their eyes.

The other is romance that combines the longing for true closeness and passion by knowing oneself and the other – and better over time.

At this point I’d like to reference a fine book here that ‘has it all’ for anyone who cares to read:

Steve and Shaaron Biddulph: The Making Of Love, 1999 and later, Doubleday Australia / Wie die Liebe bleibt (German)

Steve and Shaaron Biddulph, Australian couple of psychotherapist and social worker published their first edition of this truly funny, smart and warm-hearted look on love and how to keep it during the 1990s. It’s been revised a couple of times since then and is still one of my favourites on the subject.

Quote: “Love starts out as a blessing, even a fluke, but it continues as an achievement!”

What we tend to overlook in view of all those glittering pictures is the fact that we spend a lot of time and energy on the romance in the beginning – and then feel: ‘Ok, this is done. Let’s get back to business.’

Love is an achievement, knowing yourself, knowing the other – and it needs time and energy in order to work.

Know yourself and what you expect from a relationship – and then find and keep your partner in life.

Emotions, Panic, Humans – and ‘Ol’ Siggi’…

Pavement mosaic with the head of Pan. Roman artwork, Antonine period, 138–192 CE. (courtesy Wikimedia Commons, lightly cropped)

Ever since ‘panic’ was defined in ancient Greece, it also was clear that it is a powerful emotion. To this day, the root of some of the most tragic events and results of large group gatherings is panic.

What is Panic, Exactly?

‘panic (noun) – Sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety, often causing wildly unthinking behaviour.’
So the Oxford dictionary. As so often is the case this dictionary puts it in clear and concise language:
‘sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety…’

Emotions Spread…

One of the most striking results of research into emotions that Sigmund Freud (‘Ol’ Siggi’) already described were the phenomena of ‘transference’ and ‘projection’. Both basically mean that human beings can feel each others emotions, sometimes in reverse, sub-consciously.

This effect is also what causes the spread of panic in large crowds: it’s not a rumour or words so much but the actual feeling, the emotion spreading between humans, causing those dreadfully tragic flights which so often crush people below them, when others start running and trampling, regardless.

Emotion – or ‘Energy’?

In other more ancient systems the emotions are sometimes called ‘energy’. The possibility of transferring emotions between humans. So far, modern science such as physics hasn’t found or developed instruments that would measure these ‘energy fields’.

Although the names are different, the ‘thing’ is the same: emotions, feelings, warmth, they are transferable, the more so the better a person understands and accepts their own emotions, without judging them.

Everyday Life

Which does not mean: ‘acting them out’!

Basic, almost everyday example: someone who for some reason or other becomes suddenly angry, has several ways of expressing that anger:

    • they could hit the person in front of them.
    • Or they could hit an object, such as a punching ball.
    • Or they could say ‘I am angry’, leave the room and take a good long walk, until the anger has passed away.

I have read so many books in the course of my life and analyzed structure as well as meaning and the underlying patterns – as well as that of other kinds of stories, such as movies, poems, you name it – that I could cite such examples going on for hours.

Find Yours

But the long and the short of all this is: especially in Europe people who are completely unfamiliar with either actual experience of that kind of energy being transferred – consciously! – or with Sigmund Freud’s and his disciples’ writings, may find some of those people who know, rather inexplicable.

Additionally, people who have been raised on very ‘reasonable’ not to say cold lines, may find it almost impossible without taking certain kinds of ‘medicine’ to ever feel deeply.
Which is very sad to know – or to watch.

I encourage anyone who reads this and perhaps yearns for deeply stirring moments or experience in their lives, to do some research, find out about the close connection between body and mind – and not ‘take’ anything other than the occasional herb tea or spice.

Athena – the Goddess of Wisdom, War and Craftsmen in Greek Mythology

Athena, goddess of wisdom, war and crafts in Greek mythology, brought to life again…in a manner of speaking.

Why ‘real’ – or ‘true to life’, when talking about ‘mythology’? Which in the tradition of almost all peoples around the globe is a ‘myth’ to begin with, something like a ‘highbrow fairy story’?

Of Greek mythology it can be said particularly well that it was built, based on what was common in the society at the time:
life, love and war or parents and children, brothers and sisters. Kings, queens, gods and peasants, they figured in it, fought, won, lost, loved and hated just as human beings did – and do.

As a child I encountered the German retold stories of Greek mythology ‘en vogue’ then. I didn’t like the style. It seemed cramped and rather bent on trying to provide a sense of blind worship for the old traditions. Typical among those that seem to hold anything of ancient Greece in highest regard without checking twice – or real understanding and a broader view.

Still, recently I came across a documentary about the Greek myths that not only was colourful, consists of more than 20 parts – but also seems true to ‘life’.

The second time after reading Joachim Fernau, historian, of hotly debated, enlightened approach, who yet successfully made ancient history come to life in his books on Roman or Greek mythology and history.
Colourful, too, great fun to read, with real insight.

Athena, the Modern Woman?

Athena is particular to me because she seems to represent a figure as a woman I feel I can relate too:
not perfect, but well-liked, desired even, yet not easily taken in – or had. She fights only in order to make more peace.
She sprang from the head of her father Zeus, reigning god of Greek mythology,  at birth, also a striking way to come to life: a father’s thought or idea…

She failed once dreadfully when killing her sister in a sparring fight, where her father Zeus interfered at the last minute, blinded her sister momentarily to weaken her and thus makes Athena kill her sister accidentally.
A little background here makes it clearer:
‘Pallas’ had been her uncle Poseidon’s daughter in the tales, but both had been raised and felt like sisters. That Zeus would interfere at all, in the tales was due to an old rivalry between his brother Poseidon and himself.

That’s apparently why she is called ‘Pallas Athena’ on most statues or scrolls or in texts: she put the name of her beloved sister in front of her own to remind and be reminded for the rest of her life.

She is protective goddess of all crafts, close to arts and although I am not a craftswoman as such, I like many crafts very well, such as knitting, crocheting, or cooking.

Wisdom, last but not at all least of the main characteristics and responsibilities of her as a figure in the tales:
wisdom is dear to me and I try to attain more, as the years pass  by, always have held in it in high regard.

Wisdom and knowledge are not the same thing by a long chalk. But experience and a kind heart, as well as knowledge are the best possible bases for wisdom to come – sometimes sooner, sometimes later.

Non-violently ‘fight’ for peace, be wise, do not let them fool you and look your fellow-man – literally and figuratively – squarely in the eye, yet remember also about love or passion, quality-wise, instead of quantity: that’s what this image means to me in a nutshell. Athena.

Stereotypes – Images – Mistaken Judgement

In literature and philosophy one of the things you learn at an early stage is, to look beyond the obvious.
Or that which is apparently obvious.
The great works of art, especially in poetry, often have layers of meaning to them. And not just one or two layers. But several, in many cases.

In life, this kind of knowledge can be crucial: that the surface, the apparently obvious, the first impression, the things you hear and see with the ‘naked eye or ear’ can be completely misleading.
This fact is made use of in marketing: use images and ideas that are easy to grasp, are part of common knowledge and that way, sell – chocolate, cars, or clothes.

That’s why advertisements are often full of stereotypes, such as the wonderful housewife and mother. The cool and always superior father, the cute kids, who never complain, except when chocolate is becoming scarce… and so on, and on…

Why is this misleading, though? Aren’t there cute kids around? Aren’t there wonderful housewives and mothers? Or the superior father – not to say passionate lovers?
Of course there are!
But they are not always the only thing to know about or the most important aspect of a person.

Stereotypes exist everywhere and are almost countless.

A particularly impressive because very colourful one, connected with heaps of imagery and at the same time so easily dismantled is that of the passion of Spanish natives as opposed to that of the average European, supposed to be far more sedate in outlook:
bluntly put, unfortunately, that’s just complete bullshit.

Why, again?
What the emblematic image conjures up in the mind is the Flamenco dancer, clapping, stomping, scowling, accompanied by apparently fierce musicians strumming the guitar and the sad, sometimes fierce songs of, among other sources, the gypsies in Spain. They had been chased and abused for centuries and Flamenco, so the legend has it, expresses their fight for life.

The Flamenco as well as other dances considered to be passionate, such as the Tango or the Rumba, has seen for decades now a new appreciation and recognition in countries such as Switzerland or Germany.
Where people are considered to be less passionate, than in other regions of the world.
How is it possible then that among the famous and even in Spain recognized Flamenco dancers, there is a Swiss woman?

Because people take preconceptions and stereotypes for granted. They do not look beyond the image, the impressions, eye and ear seem to convey apparently.

But the truth is: we only understand and recognize what we know.
If our knowledge is marked by stereotypes, stereotypes is what we will see and find.

And that is a great pity!
The above example about apparently passionate as opposed to less passionate human beings is a striking one to make the point:
if we believe in it, the really passionate nature in ourselves, wherever we’ve been raised – and other more subtle aspects of people around us, may completely escape us!

So, go beyond stereotypes! Find the truth, not just the image!

 

Love – Life – Marriage – Passion

Love is not an adventure – but a journey.
Passion is not a function – but a person.
Marriage is not a commitment as in: prison – it’s a decision.
Romance is not a fleeting idea from fairy stories – but heart and mind of a person.
Life is not a sandbox and games – but responsible behaviour – and a ‘Yes’.

One of Those Questions – Love in Triples?

It seems that in long-term relationships for all kinds of reasons people can forget about passion and how it might work…
Sometimes it’s not so much the ‘forgetfulness’, but reasons outside of their strictly personal ideas have made them come together, especially: marry.

For thousands of years mankind has been wondering and does every day, if passion must not fade, naturally, after some time.
I am not sure if I am the right person to answer this definitively, but in my opinion: ‘no’.
I am a romantic and I believe that with patience and knowledge and the right setting more things are possible, than “are dreamt of in your philosophy, Horatio”, as Shakespeare has Hamlet say in the famous play.

A lot of people seem to feel that the solution lies in the triple: have the long-term partner to share life with – and the second ‘love’ to share passion with. Little vignettes may swim to imagination’s surface, painting the life that way in rosy, passionate and separate colours…
Interestingly, almost no one takes the time to think this through… Man (and woman) is not a machine, a function, but always a unique being, a whole of mind, soul and body.

So, shortly put: triples do not work in love.

Be that as it may, this little clip from one of my favourite movies gives a nice answer to that question, that is not definitive, on the surface – but makes you wonder in a good way…

Passion, Love and the Lush Side of Life

There’s a lot of literature and acquired knowledge among all of mankind about love and its multiple manifestations. Art and crafts as well as the theatre and also the movie business, newspapers, marketing, sales, you name it, they all depend on it. How? Well, one of its aspects is sex, as we call it in modern times. And sex sells. Also, and again: Why?

What is so powerful that everyone is always talking about it with relish, craving it – and more often than not – not ‘gett’n any’, as the streets (the popular slang) have it.

Someone on a TV-show called it by a simple formula: ‘sex is life-affirming’. There’s a lot of truth in that. Many people, especially in modern times and men even more often than women suffer from what Erich Kästner had called ‘lack of emotion’. Business is everywhere – and in business any passionate emotion can be bad for it, because a buyer might conclude there’s not enough confidence in the product, so perhaps better not buy.

So since passion is reduced to rare occasions in life, so since we all grow up, especially in Western civilisation, that being calm, cool and unaffected is the state of mind to go for,  passion ‘goes out the door’.

Of course, there’s the tradition also, that stems from times when being an ‘unwed mother’ was damning to a woman’s reputation, condemning her to a life in poverty, even on the streets. When  religion was known to affirm that bodily love, which I find a much better term for it, was a sin. Freud freed us of that. In the West. Since the 19th century, with the advent of emancipation of women and finally the arrival of the birth control pill it seems today we should be at a point where it’s clear, easy and as natural as it should be. Or not?

Still people wonder, what it is that can make it so hurtful (as the song has it, ‘love hurts’). Especially since the modern ‘freedom’ of ‘sex of when, where and as you like it’ has created a heated atmosphere that seems to blur the essentials.

There are two of them at least: there’s lust and there’s love. And yet – to try and completely separate them from each other is practically impossible. Alexander Lowen created a whole science around the comparatively new Western realization that body and mind are indeed no two separate entities, but rather closely related, intertwined as it were. Which is to say that what happens in our brains, the mind, is crucial for love or lust. That whatever happens in our for our bodies, is reflected in or even caused by stimulation of some region of the brain. That even the most simple words can create a whole volley of bodily reactions, remembering an experience, a taste, a fragrance, recalling images – and suddenly the pulse starts to race. What happens in love, even if it is the bodily love that is not based on deeper emotions, the ‘being in love’? The heart beats faster, cheeks flush, the temperature rises, the blood rushes through the veins, we may become almost breathless – and desire, if we are lucky, can be overwhelming. But it is to this day underestimated, especially among and for men, how deeply it can touch us, and soon. If we live as if there was no emotion, no ‘heart’ (and I mean not the organ here, in the strict sense), an emptiness, even aversion of human beings, life in general can follow. And many of those who set out to ‘break all women’s hearts at a glance’ wake up one day to find that something went missing on the way. The most wonderful literature has been created around this, refer to Tolstoi’s ‘Resurrection’ (with a religious motif at the centre), Pushkin’s ‘Eugen Onegin’, a lot of Shakespeare’s tragedies as well as his comedies, of course, W. Somerset Maugham’s ‘Of Human Bondage’, to name only a few distinct and special instances. And movies, of course: there’s no end to the stories, a ‘love interest’ is known in Hollywood to spice up the even most atrocious action picture. Very special I consider to be ‘Eat Drink Man Woman’, ‘Monsoon Wedding’, ‘A Stranger Among Us’, ‘Age of Innocence’, on a lighter note ‘Love Actually’, or more recent ‘Hope Springs’. Also to name only a very few. And to be continued almost ad infinitum.

Passion and love have been likened to fire in most languages spoken around the globe – and for good reason. Fire warms us, it lets us cook meals, it emanates a light that’s warm and comforting and even led the way, when there was no electricity used. Without its energy in some regions of the world man would die. On the other hand, we all know how dramatically deadly it can become at a moment’s notice: a spark flown into the wrong direction, a fire caused in hot and dry season in the woods, blazes in buildings, streets or whole cities destroying and killing everything in their way.

Love can be the same: warm, wonderfully passionate and fulfilling, hot and quick, or slow and smooth. It can quicken the pulse to see the loved one, makes everything shine with a new light, and happiness fills mind and body, every fibre. On the other hand rejection, in a passionate love, separation, loss – can be deadly literally – or emotionally. There’s actually a condition in medicine associated with this now, the ‘broken heart syndrome’ recognized as a manifestation of bodily symptoms.

Remember: there’s no body without mind – because without words and imagination that kindle the spark, there will be dust and ashes, only.

So first and last, do with passion and love, your heart and your body, what you do with fire, too: ‘handle with care’.